Music with Minnesotans: Sam Hiti

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
January 4, 2012
Great Silence (Courtesy of Sam Hiti) Neptune (Courtesy of Sam Hiti) Magnificat (Courtesy of Sam Hiti) Fire Dance (Courtesy of Sam Hiti) Beauty and the Beast, or an interview with an artist (Sam Hiti) Ravel's Daybreak (Courtesy of Sam Hiti)
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St. Paul, Minn. — Sam Hiti (pronounced hee-tee) is a full-time cartoonist and creates graphic novels - though he tells me that's just a naming protocol meant to disguise the fact that all day he doodles.

Sam listens to classical music pretty well exclusively while he's "doodling" - and I've been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of some of these amazing cartoons.

The turn of the page is the pace, and how you turn the page is a cause and effect. It's kind of like the opening and closing of a hand creates tension and then is released.
- Sam Hiti

In fact, that's how we met, Sam sharing a cartoon he created on Halloween during my show. I cracked up immediately because I could totally relate to that polite - but entitled - little kid asking for organic candy bars.

Sam actually says his work is like a composer, he's composing images and words together to create a narrative. He think of musical pace as he builds tension from panel to panel, almost like a fist closes then opens again as the page turns.

Sam just had to be a guest on the show and his idea was to bring a kind of story-board of music for winter.

It's not your usual list, but music that for him captures the many moods and emotions we go through as northerners during our famously long, cold and often unpredictable winter season.

He begins the story with how winter sets in each year for most of us - with that first snow. We usually find ourselves completely filled with joy and what Sam calls "wonderment." He keeps a tape of Daybreak from Ravel's "Daphnis and Chloe" to listen to when those first fat flakes swirl in the air, and you can almost see them dancing while listening.

Next Sam chose music by Ennio Morricone for the film "Restless." Gorgeous, emotive and cinematic music, where Sam finds a pace filled with a kind of brutality and harshness that echoes the grueling mindset we adopt as winter starts to wear on us - especially by February or March.

One of the coldest and most lonely places anywhere would be Neptune from Holst's "Planets." Sam adds this piece to the story-board for its blue, dark, almost creepy feeling - and also the dreaminess that precedes freezing to death.

'Purgatoria' is the end of Liszt's Dante Symphony. After being flung out into outer-space and eternal cold with Neptune, we return to a spiritual realm of light and warmth; we're saved.

Finally we end with heat - some of the most exciting music from ballet, The Infernal Dance from Stravinsky's "Firebird." After the spirit world of Purgatory, we go to the underworld and the explosive and volcanic dancing of fire.

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Sam Hiti's playlist:

Maurice Ravel, Daphnis and Chloe: Daybreak - Montreal/Dutoit

Ennio Morricone, Il Grand Silenzio (Restless) - Studio Orchestra/Morricone

Gustav Holst, The Planets: Neptune - Atlanta/Levi

Franz Liszt, Dante Symphony: Purgatoria - Leipzig/Masur

Igor Stravinsky, The Firebird: Infernal Dance - London Philharmonic/Welser-Most

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Next week writer comedienne extraodinaire Lorna Landvik joins me. She kind of faked it to get through flute lessons, but it was all good leading directly into a life as an improvisational actor. She really takes over the mic, even doing a perfect imitation of my laconic radio voice!

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